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The Aztecs knew about the versatile chia seed and its energy-boosting properties centuries ago – the name means ‘strength’ in Mayan – but only in recent years has this petite seed become a fashionable superfood, making appearances in kitchens and recipes around the world. In its country of origin, Mexico, the chia seed remains as common and cheap as ever before. Here are some of its incredible health benefits.
There are really few better foods than chia seeds when it comes to getting an antioxidant boost goodness; these small black seeds are chock full of them. This is especially beneficial for your skin, as antioxidants have been proven to fight the production of free radicals that can damage skin cells and contribute to the ageing process. Chia seeds also contain essential minerals such as magnesium, copper, manganese, zinc, iron and niacin.
Chia is great for digestion. Just a small 30-gram (1-ounce) serving of these seeds boasts 11 grams (0.4 ounces) of fibre, a whopping 30% of the recommended daily intake. Eating a fibre-rich diet can, alongside helping some chronic diseases, aid your body’s ability to regulate insulin correctly and promote a healthy bowel. Furthermore, this high fibre content actually helps offset the assumed high carb content of chia seeds, meaning they can be great for low-carb diets.
Fibre tends to absorb water the second it hits the stomach, and can therefore leave you feeling fuller for longer. The extremely high fibre content of chia seeds can help to curb hunger pangs for longer and you may lose weight as a result. Combine this with the presence of tryptophan (an amino acid) and you could also be left in a better mood and with a better sleep pattern, all thanks to chia seeds.
According to certain medical studies, chia seeds have been shown to improve blood pressure in diabetics, and to lower cholesterol. This is because chia seeds can reverse the inflammation that can lead to poor heart health and conditions such as angina and atherosclerosis, among others. They can also be beneficial for people with allergies and in helping to prevent strokes.
Alongside heart health, chia seeds can make for excellent dietary additions in diabetics, particularly type-2 diabetics. This is due to their effectiveness in slowing down digestion and their jelly-like nature, which can supposedly prevent blood sugar spikes, although the latter claim still lacks firm scientific proof. Even so, this is only likely to have effect in tandem with other dietary alterations.
The high calcium content of chia seeds (they contain five times more than milk) is great for the strength and overall health of your teeth and bones, and makes them an excellent source of calcium for those who can’t or don’t consume dairy. Pair this calcium content with the phosphorus, boron and manganese that are also found in chia, plus zinc, which can help reduce plaque build-up, and you’ve got a winning combo for strong teeth.
Feeling sluggish? Try adding chia seeds into your diet, as the Aztecs did, who allegedly fuelled themselves for a day on just a spoonful of chia. Studies have been conducted that back up the notion that chia seeds can boost energy, too. One study swapped out a high-sugar energy drink for half energy drink, half chia seeds, and found that there was no significant change in performance of the participants. This is just one study, so results are inconclusive, but in any case, reducing your sugar consumption can’t hurt.
Although this is mainly supposition to date, the omega 3 fatty acids (specifically alpha linoleic acid) found in chia seeds have been linked with an ability to prevent and limit the growth of certain cancers, such as breast and cervical cancer. Salmon is a well-known source of these fatty acids, but the quantity found in chia seeds easily outstrips it.
We’ve already touched upon how great chia can be for non-dairy consumers, but have we mentioned how amazing they are for non-meat eaters too? This is because of their impressive protein content – in fact, one ounce of chia provides 4.4 grams (0.1 ounces) of protein, almost 10% of your daily recommended allowance. As well as for vegetarians, this is great news for those trying to build muscle, balance blood sugar and burn fat.